2023 High School Football

Canyon del Oro beats Pueblo, maintains focus while in Open Division discussion

CDO limited Pueblo to 19 yards rushing in its 46-7 victory on Thursday night (Stephanie van Latum/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

In normal times, Canyon del Oro would only have the mindset of winning a 4A state championship at 8-0 overall, but with today’s power-rating system with an Open Division bracket, the Dorados are playing toward uncertainty with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Will they be in the Open Division with larger Class 6A schools, where they will be an underdog heading into the eight-team bracket, or will they be one of the clear-cut favorites of the 4A state tournament?

“We don’t pay attention to it (the power ratings), really,” said senior running back ViJay King after Thursday night’s 46-7 win at Pueblo. “We have a vision in mind. We’ve had it in our mind since last year since Snowflake (a loss on the road in the 4A semifinals in overtime).

“We’re sticking to it.”

CDO (8-0 overall and 3-0 in the 4A Kino), is rated No. 3 in the overall power ratings in the Open Division rankings behind 6A powers Centennial and Liberty.

With the multiplier system in place by the AIA — 10 times the points for a team playing against a 6A team, nine times against 5A schools and eight times versus 4A teams — the Dorados would actually be the No. 6 team in the Open Division playoffs if the season ended today.

Dustin Peace’s team is ahead of 5A schools Desert Mountain and Desert Edge in this system.

CDO plays only 4A competition with three rating periods remaining before the brackets are determined, so a drop out of the Open Division may occur.

“We’ll see what happens after this (week’s win over Pueblo),” Peace said. “We’ll all know. People in Phoenix have been calling me this week. (The Arizona Football) Coaches Association put out a poll on our behalf. I didn’t even know they were doing it, just seeing what people think about it.”

Zach Alvira, a prominent media member in the Phoenix area who reports on high school athletics, sent out a tweet last night about the poll.

“Hearing a survey has been sent out among coaches asking whether the 4A Conference and lower should be in the Open Division,” Alvira wrote. “So far a majority have said no. Some did, however, say yes.”

The 4A Conference administrators voted to remain a part of the Open Division before the school year, even though most coaches at that level would rather not play in a bracket weighted toward powerhouse 6A programs.

“You lose an opportunity to play more games (in the 4A playoffs),” Peace said. “I think that’s the main thing for us. If we have an opportunity to play more than just the one game (in the first round of the Open Division), it will be big for our program.”

Despite the potential distraction of all of this off-the-field discussion of whether they should be in the Open Division or stay with other 4A schools in the state playoffs, the Dorados continue to roll along using their wealth of talent that includes 29 seniors.

In previous games, the Dorados ran over opponents behind 5-foot-11 and 220-pound senior bulldozer (with athleticism) Kayden Luke rushing for more than 1,000 yards this season.

On Thursday night against Pueblo, senior quarterback Tristen McClelland played to his capability completing 8 of 13 passes — four of them for touchdowns — for 154 yards.

“We’ve showed that we’re one of the best run teams in the state, I believe, as we’ve been showing it, putting up the numbers with the run game,” McClelland said. “We wanted to open up the pass game and show that we can be a dual-threat team. We can run the ball very well and we can pass the ball very well.”

McClelland spread the ball to six different receivers with three of them catching touchdown passes — Chance Cassell (10 and 9 yards), King (50 yards) and Austin Greer (35 yards).

All of those scores came in the first half when CDO built a 39-0 lead going into the locker room against Pueblo (3-5, 0-3).

Luke, who rushed for 40 yards on five carries, rushed for a 10-yard touchdown run and King and Adrian Davidson each had 1-yard scoring runs to account for the other scoring.

CDO’s defense limited Pueblo to 103 total yards compared to its 316. The Warriors mustered 19 yards on the ground on 15 carries.

Chase Laux, a senior safety with the Dorados, had his sixth interception of the season in the first half that later resulted in the 10-yard touchdown pass from McClelland to Cassell.

The biggest play for Pueblo was Dylan Carrillo’s 61-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter that set up a 5-yard scoring run by Augustine Romero with 4:50 left.

Evan Greer, who has played mostly a quality defensive end for the Dorados, is also playing more at running back because of injuries at the position. He broke loose with the longest run of the game, a 46-yard burst that led to the 9-yard scoring strike between McClelland and Cassell with 2:15 left in the first quarter.

CDO, which played its last regular-season road game, hosts Sahuaro next Friday.

Pueblo hosts Catalina Foothills next Friday for Senior Night.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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